The Unspoken Truth (from Kristin Rode)

My name is Robert Hamelin and when I was 4 years old I entered the Foster Care System. My stepmother began to physically and mentally abuse me. I was taken out of the home I lived in, with her and my father and moved into the first foster home. When I was 9 years old my father was killed. He was the only good memory I had left. His loss had such a deep impact on me. I knew now that I was completely alone. By the time I reached the 6th grade I began acting out for attention. My behaviors became worse. The abuse had continued worse than ever, as now, I was being sexually abused. By the time I was 18 years old I joined the Marine Corps. I needed stability but even more important, I needed to find out if I could overcome my past and succeed, despite 14 years of violent child abuse.

The system failed me but it did not beat me!

Today I am a successful Regional Vice President for Transamerica. I have raised 5 beautiful daughters, 4 of which have already graduated from college. What is disheartening is 32 years after I got out of the Child Protection System, it continues to fail children and the abuse, still all too common. We need to come together to fix a broken system.

Each year, about six hundred thousand abused and neglected American children are removed from their homes, placed into group homes, foster homes, and adoptive homes with minimal mental health counseling and often not much history or training provided to the new care giver. These children are expected to adjust well into society, succeed in school and with their peers

Children in child protective services are only removed from their homes if their lives are in imminent harm. These children are often returned to their homes by Child Protective Services if changes are made. Many children are returned to abusive homes, with little to no follow-up.

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Standing In A Soviet Bread Line (thank you James Eli Shiffer)

Trying to get information out of the government can feel like standing in a Soviet bread line” gives the reader a sense that the bread will be there, maybe stale or moldy but there will be bread to take home if you wait long enough (which is not true regarding getting information out of the government about child protection issues).

You can wait all day, all week, all year and never find out about how many five and six year old children were on drugs, were sexually molested, tried to commit suicide or were grievously injured by their parents or caregivers last year (the information exists).

Nor will you have access to the necessary paperwork made available to Brandon Stahl at the Star Tribune in his investigation into the death of Eric Dean without a major newspaper filing a freedom of information act and spending thousands of dollars to placate a County that wants no part of your investigation (8 children have died under similar circumstances since Eric Dean’s death).

Transparency of the data surrounding abused and neglected children (not names – data) would show just how impactful the problems of child protection, mental health, generational child abuse, are as a giant institutional and financial burden that has evolved out of lawmakers not understanding the most important building blocks in making productive citizens (instead of manufacturing state wards like we are doing today).

The reason transparency of this unhappy data is important is that without information there appears to be no problem. If there is no problem, there is no discussion. No discussion = no attention, no solution and the child is abused again (this time by the community). Governor Dayton’s proposals need our support.

Let your Legislator know that All adults are the protectors of all children.

KARA is looking for a few new committed board members to help us expand our reach and function. Please contact mike@invisiblechildren.org

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Child Protection News Gathered Nationally (find your state here)

ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN Most of our news for this page (300 + articles) is gathered from; Child Welfare in the News is distributed at no charge by Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov), a service of the Children’s Bureau/ACF/HHS (www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb). It features news stories on topics of interest to child welfare…

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Virginia Abandons Abused Children To Death (200 unanswered calls never reported)

Minnesota is not the only state to fail abused children to death (8 children since Eric dean last year).

Virginia child protective services has just been discovered to have ignored, then hidden (and erased) over 200 telephone reports of child abuse. “The episode, which went undisclosed to the public until the News Leader’s report this month” has prompted the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to “consider investigating” whether laws have been broken. At least in our state, our Governor called out the failure and formed a task force which has discovered critical areas of need and made practical recommendations to make child protection more effective.

Arizona did about the same thing with six thousand ignored child protection cases a few years ago. If you read the Sad Stories page on this site, you will get a better picture of which states value children and those that don’t. It is striking.

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Child Welfare News Through June 9, 2015 – Sad Stories – Glad Stories (15 days)

ND: Child Abuse and Neglect on the Rise
KFYR-TV – May 21, 2015
More than 12,000 incidents of child abuse and neglect were reported to the Department of Human Services in 2014.

MO: & KS: EDITORIAL: Volunteers needed to help endangered kids after record caseload increases in states
The Kansas City Star – June 02, 2015
Caseload numbers rise and fall for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are bad. More people could be reporting suspected child abuse, for instance. But the increases in the two-state region are too dramatic and longstanding to qualify as a blip.

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The Sadness Of Child Protection – 2 Year Old’s Murdered by Caregivers

These past weeks have been awful for vulnerable children in MN.

Stomped on, kicked, torn liver kidney & pancreas Sophia O’Neill was violently murdered by 17 year old Cary Faran-Baum died because she wouldn’t stop crying. There’s been way too many violent child deaths in MN this past year – many of these children were known to child protection services.

Sophia was known to child protection (they didn’t investigate the case because caseloads are high and resources did not allow it).

In a family video taken before her death, Sophia explains that Faran-Baum had hit her in the face and left bruises noticible in the video. Sophia died not only of Cary Faran-Baum’s violent mindless attack. She died because there are too few crisis nurseries, inadequate daycare facilities and a general lack of concern in my community for other people’s children.

Too many of these children are known to child protection, a poorly understood and undervalued system fraught with serious problems. It’s wrong to blame the people doing the work – the problems begin with us – the people making the rules and designing the system.

As a long time volunteer Hennepin County guardian ad-Litem, it’s clear to me that my community has never cared much for the problems of young families (or their babies & 2 year olds).

If we did, there would be more crisis nurseries and daycare and children would not be left in the care of drunk uncles, violent boyfriends and child molesters.

As it is today, we only read about the dead kids. Thousands of children traumatized by violence and abuse inflicted on them by their care givers don’t make the paper (unless there is a death).

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The Only Nation in the Developed World (American Exceptionalism)

Young families in the U.S. don’t have any mandated maternity leave when the new baby arrives (we are the only developed nation in the world to not offer paid leave to new parents). Families and babies really do suffer because of it.
There is almost no paid paternity leave for fathers in America either (almost all of the developed world – and about half of the 167 nations tracked by the International Labor Organization, offer paternity leave to dads).

American exceptionalism has become the opposite of what we want it to be – especially when it comes to young families and children. We talk a big game, but we don’t really value other people’s children.

All adults are the protectors of all children – communities will be safer & happier when this becomes a truism.

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Grandparents; Counties & States Can’t Live With Them, Children Can’t Live Without Them.

It is not the social worker, the teacher, or other professionals working with children that are responsible for the problems within American child protection service, it is lack of awareness and understanding by policy makers of the core problems and how best to address them through effective operational policies.

Several of my County kids had over 25 foster home placements & experienced dozens of teachers, social workers, and others like me before they were let out of the system. I was the only adult consistently in their lives in a number of cases as many others came and went.

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Minnesota’s Child Endangerment Model (from the Casey Report briefing for Hennepin County commissioners today)

I was moved today when Steve Olson (from Knowledge Management) delivered the Casey Foundations 8 month report and recommendations for Hennepin County child protection at the County Commissioners briefing at the courthouse (listen to it here)

Steve made multiple references to Hennepin County’s “child endangerment” model and how it differs from a “child protection” model. He presented data demonstrating our negative outcome across a broad range of criteria and strikingly, how the County ignores child neglect (unlike the rest of the nation).

I understand the commissioners frustration over how much money (120 million dollars was stated) is spent on CP and how bad the results are. This is a complex set of issues that need thinking at a higher level.

With little measurability, less collaboration, almost no transparency there is only a vague idea of where to put resources and what’s really not working.

Bad results are about all that can happen the way things are today.

Mr Olson spoke of a perceived fear and lack of trust (distrust of peers and staff) within child protection reminding me of the high turnover in this industry in general and just how bad morale and turnover are on both the east and west coasts are.

Defining success and how we measure child safety and killing the current County child endangerment model was a top recommendation.

More community based solutions, involving community stakeholders and redefining what we want for outcomes all make perfect sense to me.

I also resonated with how social workers are also traumatized by their work and by the system and how this undermines the well trained, experienced and committed workers that we need so badly. It’s hard work and we should be striving to make things work better.
It was good to hear it spoken of that allot of the problem is that people don’t talk about the issues due to fear of litigation (and that much of this is overblown). The heart of the matter is that we don’t talk about it and very few people have a clear perspective of the issues.

Now, if policy makers would just get their brain around how important crisis nurseries, quality daycare and other early childhood programs are, we might just begin to break the cycle of abused children becoming problem youth with no parenting skills, trauma based behavioral problems often made worse with drug and alcohol addictions and three or four of their own very young children that will soon be allot like them in so many ways.

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Are You An Out of State KARA Follower?

Kids At Risk Action is looking for writers from other state’s to report on child protection/child abuse conditions around the country.

Report each week about how your state treats at risk youth and help KARA bring more attention to what needs to happen for children to be safe and happy where you live.

Contact me directly for more information, mike@invisiblechildren.org

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Growing Up In America (do we value children?)

Dana Liebelson’s recent interview demonstrates what the state of Michigan went through to stop her reporting on the violent treatment of youth in the state’s juvenile prisons is just one more example of a punishment oriented system more prone to further harming of youth and continued institutional failure than supporting or rebuilding them.

The state of Michigan has presented Dana with 2 supoenas for complete and unedited copies of all of her work related to their juvenile prison facilities (most likely because a class action lawsuit for how juveniles are treated in Michigan institutions is a real concern). On a national level, for a graphic review of juvenile’s in juvenile prison Richard Ross photo documentation of kids having their lives ruined is second to none.

MN’s former Supreme Court Chief justice Kathleen Blatz remarkably stated that 90% of the youth in juvenile justice have passed through child protective services. Is it just me or does this not seem like the saddest thing one could say about a community?

39 states track juvenile recidivism but most are unable to track the effectiveness of their system.

In Ramsey County MN, the ACES study demonstrated that the 8% of the youth who commit up to 70% of all serious and violent juvenile crime come from 2 to 4% of families and that most violent adult offenders began their criminal careers before age 12.

Many states without restorative justice initiative draw few distinctions between adult and youthful offenders and experience recidivism between 70 and 80 %. As a nation, we charge 25% of youthful offenders as adults (some as young as 11 years old).

Riker’s Island in New York holds a record for suicides and cruel treatment of youthful offenders.

Many states have a long history of punishment and violence against youth. Pennsylvania recently sent 2 judges to prison (40 years) for sending hundreds of innocent youth to for profit prisons for commissions on each new inmate. California police sold (you raise em, we cage em T shirts)
Texas is proving that smart justice includes mental health services, saves millions of dollars and empties jails (this NPR interview is worth your 7 minutes).
Support programs that help children return to the community. What we are doing to troubled youth today in so many states has filled prisons and kept our communities less safe. There is only sadness and no upside to bad public policy.

Help KARA continue to build support for better public policy for at risk youth
All Adults Are The Protectors of All Children

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Childhood Disrupted (the book)

Donna Jackson Nakazawa book CHILDHOOD DISRUPTED explains how a child’s biography becomes her biology and how to heal. It may be the first self help book about ACEs and speaks to why chronic disease, mental illness, violence, suicide, and addiction are so common to abused and neglected children.

Donna is a science journalist that writes about toxic stress and childhood development in a way we can all understand. She presents 13 stories of trauma about people she followed for a year and how childhood stress can lead to a life of illness and sadness.

The happy part of the book is the research that shows how self-care, exercise, adequate sleep, meditation, safe environment/relationships and smart therapies can heal.

You will finish the book understanding how toxic stress changes a person for life, how genes impacted in childhood develop various illnesses and mental health disorders (and what epigenetics is).

This book repeated the experience of my 65 year old attorney friend who bought me lunch when I wrote the book INVISIBLE CHILDREN in 2005. At Lunch he told me in confidence that he had never spoken to anyone about his abuse by a priest as child. When he was 45 years old, smoking, drinking, overweight and on his 3rd marriage and 4th business partnership he finally sought out a therapist who he sees to this this day (about 30 years).

As a long time volunteer CASA child protection guardian ad-Litem, I am convinced that Donna’s truths are profoundly accurate and they explain the sadness and behavioral problems impacting millions of children, our schools, public safety, crime, and community well being.

At some point, we must recognize the crisis our society faces by the terrifically high number of child abuse reports (6 million children annually) and support Donna’s plea for a new medical paradigm with a system in which physicians offer, “not just a drug, but a recovery plan” would make a huge difference in the lives of at risk youth. Send this article to your doctor.

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Minnesota’s Child Protection Problem (“the deeper you get into it, the worse it is” Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat)

Thank you Hennepin County Board for unanimously approving the Governor’s Task Force recommendations for improving Child Protection Services in MN.

Thank you Governor Dayton for your “Colossal Failure” statement about the death of Eric Dean (it launched the important changes we see today), kudos to the Governor’s Task Force for the hard work you have done in bringing more transparency, accountability, and sanity to a system that has been responsible for its own share of child abuse.

Brandon Stahl and the Star Tribune deserve huge credit for a full year of prying open a closed system to get to the sad facts that lead to the repeated abuse and tragic deaths of so many poor and defenseless children in (or should have been in) County Child Protection.

KARA’s hour long video interview of Brandon Stahl gives a pretty good picture of just how insular and uncooperative the system can be to prying eyes (and how much worse it was for Eric Dean than his newspaper articles indicated).

Blaming juvenile justice employees & social workers, educators, health workers, adoptive & foster parents or other worker bees connected to child protection is counter productive and wrong.

Living with and working with abused children with serious behavior issues that are often unpredictable and violent requires more help and training than this community is providing. Psychotropic medications have become a go to answer for a very high percentage of very young children in Child Protection. A Hennepin County Judge shared a very extensive list of children that passed through her courtroom that were required to take these drugs over a year’s time – some as young as 6.

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Child Abuse by Judge In Michigan (9 year old jailed for failing to speak with violent wife beating father)

It hurts me to experience the depth of sadness and unfairness visited upon at risk children.

Pennsylvania sent 2 state judges to prison (for 40 years) for incarcerating innocent juveniles into privatized prisons for money (many millions of dollars in kick backs). Michigan sending children of hating & fighting parents to jail for not speaking with the most hated parent is just awful – there has to be a better way.

It’s awful enough to be forced into taking parental sides in a viscious divorce and custody battle – it is almost criminal to jail children (since June 24) for not allowing themselves to be forcibly reunited with a parent they hate.

In a Michigan court custody case last week, after harshly treating the mother Maya Tsimhoni and 2 older children, Liam Tsimhoni & Rowi Tsimhoni, Judge Lisa Gorcyca, of Oakland County Michigan, grilled and then berated 9 year old Natalie in the courtroom, sent her and her juvenile siblings to juvenile jail and forbid her from having contact with her mother.

Has our judicial system become so heartless that 6 and 9 year old children are forced to jail and suicide because of a toxic divorce case (in court since 2009)?

All adults are the protectors of all children.

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Make A Mess, the Pope’s Message to Young People – but help us clean it up (Paraguay speech)

Young people unite, get involved in changing the rights of the poor and our assault on the planet was Pope Francis message to thousands of South America’s young people yesterday. Bring your hope and strength and demand change.

Friends, let’s take the Pope’s message to all of our leaders (religious and political) and push for helping young families and improvements in child protection and juvenile justice in America. The more people involved, the faster change can happen.

All adults are the protectors of all children. All religions are the protectors of all children.

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Dear Social Worker (a note from the Casey Foundation, KARA and Daniel)

You have chosen one of the most challenging jobs on the planet. Saving children from toxic homes & helping them heal and develop the coping skills necessary to live a functioning life. How do you manage to deal effectively with so many families (and children) at one time?

We all live with the troubled institution that is Child Protection and the lack of awareness, concern and resources our community makes available to abused and neglected children.

Burnout in your profession is high, salaries low & as the Casey Foundation pointed out when Dee Wilson delivered his report to the Hennepin County Commissioners, not much trust for your co-workers or management. Dee Wilson painted a pretty negative picture of the working atmosphere for most social workers.

It hurts me that the 90 minute audio session has been removed from the Hennepin County Commissioners website. I listened to it once and it was gone. I did attend the session, but it’s hard to remember all that was said – and some very blunt truths were delivered to our commissioners.

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All Talk & No Action – Do We Value Children or Just Talk About It?

How we value children shows up directly in the way we treat people helping us raise our children.

It hurts me to see political misunderstanding and an accepted practice of misleading people about something as important as this nation’s children. Reading the paper one would think that our problems lie at the feet of service providers (teachers, social workers and foster parents to name the main scapegoats).

At election time, politicians make political hay blaming teachers for failed schools (with public support).

Institutional failures are not the fault of people doing the hard daily work of foster care, teaching or social work.

These folks work within a system designed by policy makers and administrators (most of whom are very well paid – not a bad thing, but a thing to remember when looking for the responsible party).

Blaming worker bees in child protection is just as wrong as blaming law enforcement officers for allowing terrible crimes. Can law enforcement sue policy makers and counties for making their work impossible? – we may soon see).

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Indiana Sued For Making Child Protection Almost Impossible

A few years ago, Vice Presidential candidate and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels eliminated funding across the board for Indiana families adopting special needs children (after 500 adoptions by families promised these dollars for transportation, healthcare & education of their adopted children, were completed).

Indiana then became the only state in the nation to place families adopting special needs children on a wait list rather than paying subsidies.

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Child Death and Child Abuse Articles (for July 2015 – find your state/country here)

KARA tracks child abuse and death articles from around the nation (and some international cases).  Most non death child abuse cases never make it into the media.  This page is KARA’s discovery of information through July 26 2015 and is only a fraction of this child welfare news around the nation.  For a look farther…

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CASA guardian ad-Litem News (find your state here) August 2015

A baby is born addicted to opiates, a young child wakes up to find their parent unresponsive with a needle in their arm, siblings sit in the back seat of a car parked on a country road as their parents are shooting up heroin. LaPorte County and Indiana are experiencing an epidemic. It is drug abuse. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, epidemic is listed as affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community or region at the same time. Certainly we can describe the current rapid spread of opiate use an epidemic.
Last year, there were 17 deaths from heroin overdoses in LaPorte County and Indiana is increasing its needle-exchange program beyond Scott County. The Indiana Department of Child Services is reporting a record-breaking year for child abuse cases. It’s only June and in LaPorte County alone, 50 children have been placed out of their homes due to abuse or neglect.

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On Handcuffing & Tasing 3rd Graders (and expelling preschoolers)

There is no shortage of disturbing stories about violent children & authorities using violent means to control them. Today, the U.S. expels more children from daycare than any other industrialized nation and the levels of violence in our schools is frightening and harmful to all of us.

There is nothing more disturbing than watching a video of an armed 200 pound police officer twisting the arms of a 50 pound special needs child into a painful behind the back steel handcuffed position as the boy cries uncontrollably in his classroom, unless it is reading about the St. Louis Sheriff’s deputy tasering an 11 year old boy and threatening to sodomize him (Sheriff Mulch “nothing out of the ordinary…, followed protocol)

These stories and recent horrific police shootings of juveniles are a signal of overwhelmed institutions unable to deliver the most basic protection and safety services to the communities that employ them. Don’t blame service providers -it is lawmakers and administrators defending archaic policies that just don’t work anymore. Neither police nor teachers are able to nor should they be required (with the training we give them) to handle the deep and troubling behaviors of very disturbed children). Traumatizing five and six year old children because they have behavioral problems is just awful and it makes things so much worse for the child (and our society).
This story out of Texas, demonstrates how the police might better deal with troubled youth with an approach that recognizes the significance of mental health issues impacting police/child interaction. We need to do a 180 on dealing with mental health issues. Now.

The sooner we the people recognize that this is all about mental health and that schools and police departments are not mental health service providers, the safer our schools and city streets will become.

All adults are the protectors of all children.

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How We Punish – And What It Does To Children & Our Community

For many years, we have fed younger and younger people into our Criminal Justice System and gotten the same results over and over again as children graduate into the Criminal Justice System with a recidivism rate that may soon exceed 70% (Juvenile Justice recidivism is not tracked in 11 states and narrowly tracked elsewhere).

Evidence overwhelmingly indicates that abused and neglected children, mostly from families suffering from generation after generation of child abuse, fuel the furnace of the Juvenile Justice System. It has become common to charge 12 and 13 year old children as adults in the Criminal Justice System, some as young as 8 years old. Pennsylvania recently charged a 10 year old as an adult.

3000 children have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, some as young as 13 (sentenced to die in prison).

Yesterday’s article on tasing 3rd graders & expelling preschoolers at many times the rate of other industrialized nations is snapshot into the dysfunctional elements of our institutional approach to dealing with the mental health issues of children, primarily abused and neglected children, that enter our Juvenile Justice System.

Today, I draw your attention to some of the worst practices within Child Protection Services and the Juvenile Justice System and ask you to reflect on how these practices might re related to the frightening violence and dismal news that pervades our media and daily lives. Social death…

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Imprisoned Judges & Police Officers In Pennsylvania (still sending innocent people to jail – by the thousands)

This Pennsylvania sad story of six police officers beating and robbing suspects, planting evidence and doctoring paperwork to obtain over 560 false convictions (that are now being vacated) follows on the heels of the State’s recent incarceration of two Pennsylvania judges for over 4000 false convictions that sent thousands of innocent juveniles to jail because…

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